Thursday, 28 August 2014

Lupin the friend, lupin the foe …

Quick post about a news item this week which caught my eye, on the increasing prevalence of lupin being used in products Stateside.

Lupin has the potential to cross-react with peanut and soya – meaning some people with peanut and soya allergies will react (potentially dangerously) to this legume, even upon first contact with it. This is not in itself news: we have known about it for at least a decade. Lupin is one of the 14 key declarable allergens - having been added along with molluscs to the other 12 in (I think) 2012.

Although it’s more popular in Mediterranean countries, it does crop up in the UK occasionally – for instance,  last year in Heinz’s new range of gluten-free pastas. Thanks to the very nutritious flour that lupin produces, it’s an understandable inclusion, and could well become much more common, especially in gluten-free products. 


Although several bloggers and websites such as FreeFrom Foods Matter did comment at the time on the inclusion of lupin in the Heinz pastas, and mentioned that peanut allergics especially ought to be beware, to my knowledge Heinz did not make any particular warning statement about it – either on pack or elsewhere. Might this have been because the products were aimed at coeliacs – rather than peanut allergics?

In America, this label below used in this week’s story does make a statement on pack. I’m not sure of the brand behind the product, but I found it interesting and quite thoughtful of the manufacturers. You could argue the statement – ‘lupin is a legume related to peanuts and soya’ – is not quite explicit enough, but it’s surely enough of a ‘stop and think’ comment to make anyone with allergies to peanuts, especially, think twice, perhaps consult with their allergist in the first instance, or else take some other precaution before devouring a plateful of the pasta?


Credit: U.S. Food and Drug Administration

What do you think? Would you find warnings of possible cross-reactions on foods helpful? And should they extend to allergens not on the 'big 14' list? Given that there are dozens of potential cross-reactions which have been identified by researchers and immunologists, it would be impossible to account for every conceivable outcome on all foods – especially since allergy boxes are in effect being phased out by the new legislation coming into effect this December – but perhaps at the most extreme end of the allergic / anaphylactic spectrum, they would be beneficial?

If you’re interested in learning more about lupin allergy, and the link to peanut allergy, there’s more at the Anaphylaxis Campaign website here.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Some things change, some stay the same ...

There’s been a great deal of media coverage of free from and food sensitivities lately, and it’s worth remembering how far we have come on this. I recall pitching allergy, intolerance and coeliac-related articles to magazines and papers ten, even five, years ago, and struggling to get much interest from editors. Securing publicity for my first book on food intolerance was impossible in mainstream publications.

Now? Things have changed. The subject is everywhere - which has got to be good - and there are more bloggers too. The material is not always right, nor high quality, and we all (few more so than me) like to moan - often quite rightly - about slip-ups or inaccuracies or journalism which is disrespectful to those with serious food-related illness - but I do think, on the whole, standards are improving. Besides, even when lacking, it gets people talking.

What hasn’t changed is the repetition of certain myths, misconceptions or entrenched sceptical views which inexplicably persist. The spelt-is-gluten-free error, for instance, shows no sign of burnout - The Daily Mail made it just days ago, captioning the image of breads in this story as gluten-free spelt breads - and never mind their description of coeliac as an allergy, which I have to admit now feels like a lost cause we should probably give up bothering with. (The spelt error was swiftly corrected following tweets sent to them.)

I’m also tired of the ‘worried well’ tune - not to mention the ‘all in the mind’ refrain that always gets spun with it for good measure. Here’s the Telegraph, just last week. What is a ‘worried well’ person, anyway? Is the term not an oxymoron? If you’re worried, you’re not well, surely? Stress is a serious health problem - and it’s implicated in IBS. If fretting over our diets could be contributing towards gut symptoms then this is something that needs to be acknowledged not batted away dismissively.

The tedious ‘all in the mind’ jibe is worse. It’s tiresome when writers carelessly impose shame on people who may - or may not - have psychological problems with respect to food. Whether problems are psychological, physiological or (as is often the case) somewhere in between, all cases demand individual and equal medical respect. And as I’ve argued before, the food sensitive community could do well to avoid distancing itself from the idea of somatisation: it would help to destigmatise an issue which is real, not in any way morally inferior to physiological disease, and not a sign of weakness.

Would it not help us all to remember that if anyone thinks they have a problem with food - then that in itself is a problem with food? While I’m generally against self-diagnosis because it is often, especially in the wrong hands, unreliable, and can lead to mistaken conclusions about one’s own health and potentially lead to nutritional problems, I do understand why people do it. The goal is that we reach a point where nobody needs to self-diagnose, because all sensitivities will be understood, and we have good - proven - tests for all of them. Change to look forward to.

FODMAPs, and Genius .... Again
If we are to believe this article in Food Manufacture, further change is afoot with the prospect of a new free-from trend in low FODMAPs food for IBS and general digestive malaise.

In my ‘Review of 2013’ blog, I predicted that FODMAPs-low ready meals may arrive on our shelves this year - or by 2015. I recently found out - thank you Maya - that some, mainly ingredients - sauces, soups, stocks - are newly available in Australia: The Sue Shepherd range, is free of (high FODMAP) onion and garlic, and is gluten-free to boot. (Anila’s Sauces here in the UK - it’s worth mentioning - have similar free from attributes.) 

Is this a bandwagon in the making? I find it interesting that YorkTest Laboratories - who market blood testing and nutritional support plans which rely on testing of IgG antibodies, whose role in food intolerance have been widely questioned and criticised - have incorporated FODMAPs into their IBS Programme. This, despite the fact that the evidence for the success of the FODMAP diet is based on research on individuals supported carefully and regularly by specially trained registered dietitians, not the nutritional therapists which YorkTest offer customers - and from what I can gather with only two telephone consultations, it should be noted. Have they supplied evidence that their combined IgG / low FODMAP approach works, or is any better than the FODMAP plan in isolation? Not that I can see.

Something else I predicted a couple of years ago on this blog was the sponsorship by free from brands of sporting events. The realisation of this makes its mark today as the Commonwealth Games kicks off - with Genius Foods as a sponsor

I recently received a press release from Muckle Media about Genius’s latest #shelfieselfie marketing campaign, which contained the line “actually everyone can benefit from reducing gluten in their diet". I queried this questionable statement - twice - but no response nor support for it, which is disappointing but no longer surprises me. I have said before that I think the ‘gluten free for sporting performance’ might be the next ‘thing’ to replace ‘gluten free for weight loss’ in the field of lifestyle choice and/or faddiness (depending on your viewpoint ...) - in spite of the fact that evidence is lacking - and I have to wonder whether, if and when FODMAPs starts to become the Big Thing that distracts us from gluten free, that’s how those with a strong stake in GF will fight back?

Any other new trends? One more from me: “Eating clean”. I’m noticing this terminology being increasingly used, and dislike it, especially in the context of free from, with the subtle implication that non-free from is somehow tainted with ... what exactly? Is milk dirty? Is gluten soiled? Forbes covered the phenomenon here, and Gluten Free Rosie wrote entertainingly on it too.

I’d like to see this nipped in the bud, but I expect it to hang around, regrettably, for quite some time, to further guilt trip and confuse vulnerable individuals who - despite the endless volumes of nutritional advice they are surrounded with - still do not know what to eat ...

What is - or should - be changing, and what is - or should be - remaining the same? As ever, I’d welcome your thoughts .... 

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

A spelty food label

Here’s a label on a Biona vegan mini-burger product, which I think is interesting for two reasons.

Monday, 5 May 2014

Why ‘Vegan’ is not always ‘Dairy Free’

It started with a tweet from Carly (@GfreeB) about a Montezuma’s label reading ‘free from … gluten’, an expression not permitted under labelling law. The words have to be ‘gluten free’, although many companies slip up, most recently Saclá, with their ‘free from wheat, gluten and dairy’-fronted new pestos.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Free From Finds from NOPE

One of the best things I get to do in the course of my work is go to food and health trade shows, which are normally reserved for industry professionals, but for which press passes are generally available to interested hacks.

The Natural and Organic Products Europe show is one of the best: an annual showcase for established, emerging and overseas food, health, skincare and household products – many of which are looking for distribution in the UK.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Every Label Hinders …

… if it’s got ‘may contain nuts’ on it. And, sadly, it seems that many Tesco products do.

If you’ve not yet heard of the brouhaha that kicked off last week on Tesco’s Facebook page following their confused and mixed messages concerning their ‘may contain’ labelling policies, then the following links will I hope prove useful (not least because they excuse me from writing about a subject their writers understand far better than me).

Thursday, 27 March 2014

M&S Launches – and Twitter

Very quick post – and not my usual sort, but hopefully appreciated by dairy and gluten sensitives … and perhaps those who react to other allergens.

Have just attended an M&S press event in London. The following products are launching in April:

Monday, 24 March 2014

Spelt, wheat, gluten, etc.

I’ve written about spelt before, but that one was well over a thousand words, and we need a quickie.

It’s not gluten-free, but I’m sure you know that now, although this blog has only come about following some Twitter chat concerning this review on Emerald Street of a café serving what have been mistakenly described as gluten-free spelt croissants.